Winner - January 2022 Edition: Best Original Song & Best Young Actor in a Short Film
Mayuri, Banjii, thank you for having us. Mayuri, how did you come up with the idea of this project?
Mayuri: I have wanted to tell personal stories as a tool for connection for quite a while. When I met Banjii I realized that music makes stories real, because it helps you feel the story in your bones. We started writing an album of personal songs which eventually turned into videos to add another dimension to the experience which became Uncommon Love Story.
Tell us a little about how you two met: Were you both musicians at the time, how did you start building a career together?
Mayuri: Banjii is a successful career musician. I had no experience in music at all. I met him at his music school/art gallery in my neighborhood during the pandemic. I first bought art and then we started with music lessons. The lessons quickly turned into writing songs together. When we wrote our first song, Copper Lines, I knew we had stumbled onto something special. We don’t have much in common on paper, but music cut through all the differences and spoke right to our hearts. “It’s not about what I know but how you made me feel.” That’s a lyric from our first song.
Your children are naturals, very at ease, do they both want to follow in their parents' steps?
We couldn’t ask for better co-stars. They are at that stage in their lives where they are experimenting with all kinds of technical skills and art forms to discover what their purpose is and what and who they want to be… while being stellar at their academics in school.
Willow is a brilliant storyteller and has created an animated show, Stunt Egg, which has 17 episodes already. Edwin is his co-animator and voice-over artist. Edwin is currently keen on being a stand up comedian and is a wonderful painter. The idea with these videos was to show them what the adult world is like…The work ethic, the struggle, the collaboration. From here on out… The world is their oyster and there’s nothing they cannot do. We will support them fully in whatever it is that they choose to do.
Can you tell the audience about the rest of your project, Mayuri, the first two episodes, and what's to come?
We are now five episodes in! Uncommon Love Story is a seven-part video series, based on the eastern notion of the seven chakras. The chakras are considered spiritual power centers in the human body and each video of the series is based on a different chakra.
The goal of the series is to facilitate healing and connection through stories from Banjii & Mayuri’s real life. Each track is an original song conveying a different story but all connecting cohesively.
The videos are shot in beautiful and relevant locations across the United States.
Who are your collaborators (DoP, Sound Designer, Editor…), how did you build the team, and are you all going to stick together until the final wrap?
The most important part of this project is the TEAM. For the music, we have a very seasoned and experienced team that Banjii has been working with for many years, including Grammy nominated John Keane who is our Sound Engineer.
For our first video, we just went with the flow and found ourselves the Videographer and Editor at the very last minute in Sedona, where we were planning to film. Over the last few videos, we have continued to work with a combination of the original team and new team members based on the requirements including Covid restrictions! Video five, filmed in New York, has a New York based Cinematographer and Editor. The goal is to give people of color, immigrants, women, opportunities to rise and shine as a part of this effort.
And how did the two of you organize your collaboration, in terms of writing and acting specifically?
Mayuri: For the music, this song has two distinct parts. The first half is a question, a yearning, a desire for salvation. Banjii wrote the first half of this song 4 years ago. We wrote the second half of the song together, as Banjii and Mayuri, following our union, as a response to the first half, a solution, a resolution. Banjii is the Composer and Producer of all our music, and we write the lyrics together. I lead the video direction piece.
For the video, the story is based on true life too. Edwin actually has this toy llama that Banjii bought for him years ago. Edwin protects and loves this llama and takes it around with him everywhere. He asked me once, “Mayuri, how long can I carry around this llama and still be cool?” This story was our response to his authentic question.
All the actors are playing themselves. Many of the scenes in the video are us going about our day with a camera following us. The shot of Edwin knocking over the Sprite and grabbing Lorenzo was unplanned and the camera captured his authentic reaction!
What is the message you wish the world receives through your work?
Change is coming. The time has come for us to surpass systems, borders, boundaries, stereotypes, expectations, obligations that are holding us back from reaching our full potential as individuals and as a collective human race. Let us heal, transform and unite! It is the only way forward.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-Covid cinema, do you think there will be notable changes?
The world is changing and so is cinema. Filming technology is cheaper and more accessible to people, allowing for independent cinema to rapidly emerge onto the world stage. Previously unheard stories from previously unheard voices are finding a place and a medium where to be told. Distribution methods seem to be most impacted. On one hand, the motivation to go to theaters and watch movies seems to be reducing, while big time streaming services are also finding it hard to retain customers.
Global audiences are seeking a different way to experience cinema and over the next few years, we will discover which of these ways will work and which will no longer be successful. The ability to convince audiences that you are telling the truth and can be trusted as a storyteller is of paramount importance in the post-Covid era.
Hello Edwin, nice to meet you. Was your role in GASLIGHTED your first experience in acting? If not, what were your previous ones? If yes, what did you learn and love about acting?
Nice to meet you too! I have previously acted in drama productions at the cultural center in my hometown in Georgia. I just really like acting because I can be myself and someone else at the same time and it’s okay. Acting is like stealing an identity but it’s completely fine. I learned that sometimes you need to take naps. Naps are allowed! We took breaks between our scenes in GASLIGHTED because we were filming very long days.
At the end of the film, we see you as a stand up actor. What was going on there?
We originally wrote out a comedy skit about 30 minutes long and performed and filmed it. Then shortened it to about 30 seconds which is what you see in the video. Basically, it is showing that I am fine without my llama, kinda, haha. And that I am completely fine and the transformation is done.
What would you like to share with people your age about acting, film, and the Arts in general?
Never give up! Because once you give up, you will lose interest. And if you lose interest then you will stop doing it. Sometimes the right way to go is to stop doing it, I guess, but most of the time its really fun to keep on going on.
Do you see yourself as a "young artist"? And which are your other interests, whether in the Arts or other?
Yes, I see myself as a young artist and I also like painting. I am in the middle of painting a mural for my brother Willow’s animated series Stunt Egg. You can see him talking about this at the end of GASLIGHTED. I also enjoy skateboarding. I just picked it up… it only took me ten minutes to learn!
Banjii & Mayuri
Banjii is a multi-instrumentalist, singer & songwriter from the Appalachia, USA, with 4 successful albums in his portfolio (published as Jason Kenney), that has joined forces with Mayuri, a singer-songwriter from Pune, India, who’s also an Indian classical dancer, electronics & telecom engineer and business strategy expert with nearly a decade of experience in advising Fortune 500 companies in the USA.
Currently, they are taking Kahani Records on the road for their award winning project Uncommon Love Story by Banjii & Mayuri, where they record and release 7 music videos shot in different locations in the USA. Uncommon Love Story has won nearly 300 global film festival selections and over 100 first place titles.
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